We conducted an epidemiological study in Liguria, Italy, on the association between somatic parameters at birth and drinking water disinfection with chlorine dioxide and/or sodium hypochlorite. Over 2 years (1988-1989), 676 births at two public hospitals, one in Genoa (548 cases) and another in Chiavari (128 cases) were examined and data regarding both mother and child were obtained from hospital records. Results indicate a higher frequency of small body length (< or = 49.5 cm) and small cranial circumference (< or = 35 cm) in infants born to mothers who drank water treated with chlorine compounds. In particular, the statistical analysis (by simultaneous variance analysis and Scheffé test) indicated that there may be an association between infants with smaller body length and mothers who drank water treated with chlorine dioxide [adjusted odds radio (OR) = 2.0; 95% CI = 1.2-3.3] or sodium hypoclorite (adjusted OR = 2.3; 95% CI = 1.3-4.2) and between infants with smaller cranial circumference and mothers who drank water treated with chlorine dioxide (adjusted OR = 2.2; 95% CI = 1.4-3.9) or sodium hypochlorite (adjusted OR = 3.5; 95% CI = 2.1-8.5). The presence of neonatal jaundice is almost twice as likely (adjusted OR = 1.7; 95% CI = 1.1-3.1) in infants whose mothers drank water treated with chlorine dioxide.